My church had the second session of its Bible study on Romans last night. We're going through Romans: The Letter That Changed the World, with Mart De Haan and Jimmy DeYoung.
person in the group said that we're all equal before the cross, for we
are all sinners in need of a Savior. That's something that I needed to
hear, for how often do I rage against others in my mind, when I myself
am far from perfect?
Overall, I thought
that last night's Bible study had an attitude of humility that was not
as present the week before. The week before, people were talking about
the problems and sins in the world. A few people said that God has been
sending natural disasters to get people's attention and to bring them
closer to himself. I have issues with that particular portrayal of God,
yet I can understand the sentiment of some in the group that the world
is spiraling out of control. At the same time, last week's Bible study
seemed to present sin as something that's out there, in the world,
whereas last night's Bible study focused on how sin is also in here,
inside of each of us.
Some of the people
who talked a lot last week were quiet last night. Last week, I was
rather quiet, but I contributed a couple of times in last night's
session. Someone was saying that the Jews (or perhaps a more accurate
term would be mainstream Judaism in Paul's time) did not recognize that
they were sinners, and so Paul was trying to show them in Romans that
they, too, were sinners in need of a Savior and thus had no right to
look down on Gentiles. I responded that Judaism itself has a concept of
repentance from sin and the need for God's forgiveness, and so I
disagreed with the idea that Judaism did not recognize that Jews were
sinners who needed God's mercy. I was then asked what I believed Paul
was responding to, which is a good question. My response was
that, although Judaism held that Jews needed to be forgiven by God, it
still held that Jews through obedience to the Torah could be reasonably
righteous, but Paul thought that the human condition was far more
desperate than that because the flesh was corrupt and prone to sin, and
Paul believed this problem could only be cured through Jesus Christ.
I reflected more after the study, I thought of other answers that I
could have given. For example, I could have said that there was a
Jewish view that all Israelites had a place in the World to Come, and
that, while the sinful Israelites needed to repent and receive God's
forgiveness, their status as Israelites still ensured them access to the
good afterlife, only they'd have to spend time in Gehenna before they'd
reach it. Paul may have been saying, however, that ethnicity
was not sufficient to save anyone, for God judged both Jews and Gentiles
according to their works, and all were equal in the sense that they
fell short and thus deserved God's judgment. Similarly, John the
Baptist in Matthew 3:9 told the Pharisees and Sadducees that being
descended from Abraham was not enough to save one from God's wrath.
could have said that Paul concluded from Christ's revelation to him
that Christ was necessary for salvation, and Paul reasoned back from the
solution (Christ) to the problem: that the Torah was not enough to
bring a person forgiveness, for everyone needed Christ.
I could have said that Paul was stereotyping Judaism as a self-righteous religion. As
Paul stereotyped the Gentiles as crass and immoral idolaters, even
though there were a number of Gentiles who had an abstract and
sophisticated conception of the divine and who behaved ethically, so
likewise could he have been stereotyping Judaism. Paul was probably
basing both stereotypes on something----his experiences and observations----but, like many stereotypes, they weren't the whole story.
was thinking of telling the people in my group about the Old
Perspective and the New Perspective in Pauline studies, but I decided
not to do so. The Old Perspective is easy to summarize and to
understand, whereas the New Perspective is much more difficult, at least
Am I dying?
2 hours ago